The past two decades have brought forth a slew of harsher legislation to deal with the problems of terrorism and deteriorating law and order, which seriously question former Prime Minister John Major’s contention that “we have no need of a Bill of Rights because we have freedom.” Some examples of the curbing of civil liberties of ordinary citizens are the curtailment of the right of public protest, control orders, indefinite detention and arrests without warrants.Public protests are generally encompassed within the framework of the right to free expression and free association which is an essential part of a democracy. Restrictions on public gatherings, camping and other activities, to cope with criminal and terrorist elements, have resulted in a wider range of activities being construed as criminal offences. Trespassing on land and refusing to leave when asked to do so by the police constitutes an offence . The Act also allows the police to prohibit any gatherings of more than 20 people on any land “of historical, architectural, archaeological or scientific importance” by obtaining an order from a local authority to ban such an assembly if they have a reasonable suspicion that there could be disturbances . Such measures have purportedly been introduced in the interest of controlling terrorism and public disorder, so that; “conduct which constitutes one or more offences shall be regarded as a serious crime where it involves conduct by a large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose.”
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